Avalon Sunset

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Avalon Sunset
Studio album by Van Morrison
Released 1989
Recorded June 1989 at The Woolhall, Eden, Olympic, Westside and The Townhouse Studios, England
Genre Celtic, folk-rock
Length 42:22
Label Mercury
Producer Van Morrison
Van Morrison chronology
Irish Heartbeat
Avalon Sunset
The Best of Van Morrison
Singles from Avalon Sunset
  1. "Have I Told You Lately" b/w "Contacting My Angel"
    Released: June 1989
  2. "Whenever God Shines His Light" b/w "I'd Love to Write Another Song"
    Released: November 1989
  3. "Orangefield" b/w "These Are the Days"
    Released: December 1989
  4. "Coney Island" b/w "Have I Told You Lately"
    Released: January 1990

Avalon Sunset is the nineteenth studio album by Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison, released in 1989.

The album has been described as "a powerful statement that the often turbulent muse had stabilized and was now a sublime force flowing through Van Morrison".[1]

The 9 January 2008 reissued and remastered version of the album contains an alternative take of "Whenever God Shines His Light" and a version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" with additional lyrics by Morrison.


This album was recorded in London and Bath, England, and close to Avalon, the mythic kingdom of King Arthur.

It marked the first appearance with Morrison of Georgie Fame, who played the Hammond organ and also provided backup vocals and helped direct the band. Morrison and Fame would work together for most of the nineties.

The all new songs were rehearsed in two days and then recorded in another two days. Arty McGlynn (the guitarist) remarked about the band's feelings when the sessions ended "we still don't know if it's an album, or maybe a demo for an album." Morrison's reliance on spontaneity was evident on "Daring Night" where he can be heard calling out chord changes "one-four, one-four" (Gmaj to Cmaj) to Roy Jones near the song's ending.[2] The album was previewed at a private concert at Ronnie Scott's club on 24 May 1989.[3]


The album opens with "Whenever God Shines His Light", issued as a successful single that charted at #20 in the U.K. and was a duet with Cliff Richard.

"Contacting my Angel" is actually about a woman's presence not the more heavenly kind.

On "I'd Like to Write Another Song" the singer conveys a feeling that writer's block seems to make living not worthwhile and makes a subtle joke by saying if he could only write another song: "In poetry I'd carve it well / I'd even make it rhyme/" but then doesn't by pairing it with "mind".

The album contains the religious ballad "Have I Told You Lately", which became a hit single for Morrison, reaching #12 on the Adult Contemporary Charts and was a bigger hit for Rod Stewart (who was born in the same year as Van Morrison, 1945) in 1993. Often thought to be a romantic ballad, a close listen to the lyrics confirms that this song, in common with many on this album, is actually a love song to God. This song was again released on Morrison's 2007 album, Van Morrison at the Movies - Soundtrack Hits.

The song "Coney Island" is set in a resort area in Northern Ireland and tells of a perfect day with a loved one and talk of "potted herring" and ending with the spoken words, "Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time?"

The song "I'm Tired Joey Boy" has a pastoral setting and was originally written as a poem, Morrison has said.

On a later song "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God" the certainties of faith are questioned.

The song "Orangefield" takes the singer back to schooldays and falling in love for the first time with an idyllic female that Brian Hinton compares to Beatrice in the Divine Comedy.[4]

It has often been said to be Morrison's most spiritual album, but contains songs exploring more earthy pleasures such as "Coney Island" and "Daring Night". "Daring Night" is explicitly sensual with words of "And the bodies move and we sweat/And have our being/" and was originally recorded as an instrumental for the album Beautiful Vision.

The album closes with "These Are the Days" which finds the singer lost in the moment with words of "There is no past, there's only future; There's only here, there's only now".


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau A−[6]

Avalon Sunset was Morrison's fastest selling record in the U.K., going gold soon after release.[1]

Allmusic calls it a "deeply spiritual album" noting that although it is "not a consistently strong LP, Avalon Sunset is nevertheless the work of a master craftsman, its lush orchestration and atmospheric production casting an irresistibly elegant spell."[5]

Robert Christgau gave it an A-, finding that: "Like it or not, Morrison's genre exercises are kind of boring. Having long since sold his soul to his Muse, he's her slave for life, and though he keeps importuning various gods to loose his chains, the best they can offer is extra inspiration once in a while—now, for instance."[6]

In September 1989, a Time Magazine writer commented that "Van Morrison, a favorite since the early '60s, released yet another album, Avalon Sunset, a lyrical, ruminative shard of spirituality that he refused to push or publicize."[7]

In the media and acclaim[edit]

The album features prominently in the soundtrack of the Hugh Grant film Nine Months - and the album cover can also be seen in one scene.

It was listed at No. 63 on The Times magazine's 1993 list of The Times All Time Top 100 Albums.[8]

Track listing[edit]

All songs by Van Morrison

  1. "Whenever God Shines His Light" – 4:58
  2. "Contacting My Angel" – 4:57
  3. "I'd Love to Write Another Song" – 2:52
  4. "Have I Told You Lately" – 4:20
  5. "Coney Island" – 2:00
  6. "I'm Tired Joey Boy" – 2:29
  7. "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God" – 5:38
  8. "Orangefield" – 3:50
  9. "Daring Night" – 6:10
  10. "These Are the Days" – 5:08

Bonus tracks (2008 CD reissue)[edit]

  1. "Whenever God Shines His Light" – 3:51 (alternative take)
  2. "When the Saints Go Marching In" – 6:01 (traditional, arranged Morrison)


Special guests



Chart (1989) Peak
UK Albums Chart 13
US Billboard 200 91
Norwegian Albums Chart 11
Swedish Albums Chart 10
Australian Albums Chart 30
New Zealand Albums Chart 18


Year Single Peak positions
1989 "Have I Told You Lately" 74 14 12 12
"Whenever God Shines His Light" 20 3
"Orangefield" 70
"Coney Island" 76 30
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


  1. ^ a b Hage, The Words and Music of Van Morrison, p. 110
  2. ^ Heylin, Can You Feel the Silence?, p. 429
  3. ^ Hinton, Celtic Crossroads, p. 256
  4. ^ Hinton. Celtic Crossroads. p. 275-280
  5. ^ a b Ankenny, Jason. "Review: Avalon Sunset". allmusic.com. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Van Morrison reviews". robertchristgau.com. Archived from the original on 11 February 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Rolling Stones: Roll them bones". time.com. 4 September 1989. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  8. ^ "Rocklist.net...The Times All Time Top 100 Albums - 1993". Rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 25 January 2014.